E-commerce entrepreneurs use a wide variety of tools to run their business. From marketing to sales analytics, it seems like there’s a tool for just about everything!
As it turns out, there are an abundance of digital tools that can help e-commerce entrepreneurs successfully navigate modern manufacturing, as well. By making use of the wide variety of digital resources that are available today, you can enjoy stronger relationships with suppliers and vendors and get the quality products you need to run a successful e-commerce store.
- Enterprise Sourcing Systems
One digital resource that should absolutely be at the top of an e-commerce store’s list is an enterprise sourcing system. An enterprise sourcing system draws on a vast network of vetted manufacturers from across the globe in a broad range of product categories.
The enterprise sourcing system helps manage essential relationships with manufacturing partners with third party quality control to assist with sourcing, product management and even freight and importation. Common tasks include receiving quotes from multiple factories to help e-commerce stores reduce costs and achieve the desired turnaround time.
With so many potential manufacturing options to choose from, relying on this digitally managed partnership can greatly streamline the process as you try to develop and manufacture new items for your store.
- Communication Tools
Communication has long been a challenge for organizations working with manufacturing partners — especially overseas partners. Language barriers, time zone differences and other factors have all contributed to their fair share of miscommunications.
Now, however, digital messaging platforms have simplified this process by creating a central hub where internal and external teams can seamlessly communicate. Many messaging platforms allow for teams to create separate “rooms” or conversations in addition to a main messaging channel for everyone in the organization.
Digital communication tools ensure that messages with manufacturing partners don’t get lost in a sea of emails. Improved communication improves accountability and productivity for everyone while helping you all stay on the same page.
- Project Management Solutions
Project management tools can also be a powerful support in driving productivity and collaboration. Project management tools can be used to create automated workflows and centralize your work processes.
Such tools make it easier to establish and communicate project responsibilities and deadlines. For example, you could assign a team member the responsibility of following up with a manufacturing partner by a set date as part of your overall inventory management processes. A central hub for creating tasks, tracking progress on different projects, sharing files and more can enhance your internal productivity and improve accountability.
Such tools can even be used to help you track KPIs for a wide range of areas, allowing you to more effectively compare manufacturing partners, evaluate marketing campaign performance and more.
- Inventory Management Systems
No e-commerce business should go without an inventory management system. Inventory management software can be used to track your e-commerce store’s inventory levels, order history, sales and delivery status of goods. Your inventory management system will make it easier to manage purchase orders with your manufacturing partners.
Most importantly, inventory management systems provide accurate, real-time insight into your inventory levels. You can know which items are in stock, as well as which items are nearing the level where you would need to submit a purchase order. Some systems can even automate purchase order submissions.
Considering that 34% of businesses have accidentally sold out of stock items online (and subsequently had to ship the order late), an inventory management system can provide a powerful competitive advantage by helping you avoid stockouts and other situations that would upset customers.
- Analytics and Reporting Tools
Analytics and reporting tools are essential for measuring performance trends and your overall return on investment for different activities. While e-commerce stores often apply these tools to their marketing campaigns and product sales, they can also prove valuable in navigating the manufacturing process.
For example, analytics tools can help you evaluate manufacturing partners based on KPIs like first pass yield, manufacturer downtime and average lead time. You could determine which products are actually worth selling by analyzing the gross profit margin per product. And evaluating patterns of demand and inventory turnover will help you plan for seasonal changes in demand.
The right analytics and reporting tools make this data readily available and understandable so you can make your operations more efficient and profitable.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems
Though not directly manufacturer-facing, customer relationship management (CRM) systems can also play an important role in navigating modern manufacturing. CRM tools make it easier for e-commerce stores to track the actions and behavior of their customers as they engage with the store through its website, social media ads and other marketing materials.
This data can provide valuable insights into customer preferences, allowing e-commerce stores to adjust their offerings and manufacturing activities based on CRM insights. Using the CRM to better understand customers can result in more accurate sales forecasting, allowing you to adjust purchase orders accordingly so you have the appropriate level of stock.
Making use of CRM insights has also been found to improve customer retention and overall relationships, so it is well worth the investment.
The Tools You Need
The right digital tools will help you run your e-commerce business more efficiently by automating key tasks and giving you access to crucial data insights. By considering how you can strategically implement these digital tools into your operations, you will be able to have greater confidence as you go through the manufacturing process and work with your partners to deliver great results for your customers.